Part of my pre-lit Christmas tree went dark this year, leaving my cozy view looking like above. I felt embarrassed about taking a picture of it – it wasn’t the perfectly beautiful Christmas tree that I’ve put up every year and come to associate with all things joyfully Christmas.
But I realized recently that sometimes that’s how our hearts feel a bit at Christmas. We feel the joy, we feel the excitement of celebration, but there’s a part of us that just can’t muster the happiness.
And we feel embarrassed even admitting that – because aren’t we supposed to only feel joy in this season? Aren’t we supposed to feel thrills of hope and joyous wonder? Aren’t we supposed to be singing Christmas songs round the clock and laughing while icing cookies that we happily deliver to neighbors?
But not even all the ribbons and bows, not even the hot cocoa and Christmas movies, not even the presents and snow – not even all of this can fabricate the joy when you feel like something is missing. When you feel like the world has let you down a little bit.
It’s amazing how the pain can come bubbling up from deeply hurting places when you least expect it. You can be going along, enjoying the Christmas season, and then all of a sudden, a single comment can rip open a wound you didn’t even realize was there.
“You don’t have kids,” she said, in a seemingly innocuous comment to preface a story about her own kids, meaning that I wouldn’t understand exactly where she was coming from.
And what could I say to that?
“You have no idea how much I long to hold my own babies in my arms”?
“All I’ve wanted to be since I was six years old was a mama”?
“I know far more deeply and achingly than you that I don’t have kids – there’s no need to remind me”?
No. Just stand there and smile – and pretend like I didn’t just get the wind knocked out of me.
All I’ve been able to do my whole life is just love other people’s kids. And as much as I love my students, at the end of the day, they’re someone else’s kids, and they have a mama somewhere else that they love more (most of them … some of their mothers make me sick).
And it’s at Christmas that sometimes it hurts the most. Because Christmas is such a family- and kid-oriented holiday – when you create traditions and memories with your children, when you teach them the true meaning of Christmas, when you wrap presents that they eagerly whisper and giggle about, when you count down the days together, snuggle and drink hot cocoa together, and watch the wonder of the Christmas season through their eyes.
And for many of us, that part of our hearts is dark this Christmas with the void of its absence, despite all the joy that comes from dozens of other places.
But. Thankfully there is so much more to the Christmas story than the commercialized sleigh bells and snowmen that sing out through department stores. And this is what I cling to more than anything when the hurt cuts deep:
That the Baby born thousands of years ago came to cradle this woman with no babies and give her eternal comfort.
It’s in one of my favorite Christmas songs:
“The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger.”
~O Holy Night
He didn’t come to give us some glitzy holiday wrapped in shiny paper. He didn’t come just so that we could have family traditions, a big meal, and lots of new toys.
No, He came to enter into all our broken parts. He came to feel the pain with us, to give us hope when we feel like we have no reason to smile. He came to lift our eyes off the hurt of this world to the eternal promise of life with Him. He gave us truth that is deeper than all the “Christmas magic” that fails us over and over.
The truth that He was born in a manger so that He could die on a cross and take on our misery and heartache.
John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
And all the glowing lights of Christmas – the lights on the tree, the flickering lights of the candles – all of them are there to remind us that the True Light came as a baby in the manger, shining hope into our darkest places.
Like Ann Voskamp says, “The Light never comes how you expect it. It comes as the unlikely and unexpected … God favors the darkest places so you can see His light the brightest.”
Even when parts of our hearts feel the darkest this Christmas, His light never goes out. It burns steadily, the promise of One who will never leave us. He will keep illuminating our weary hearts and give hope to our souls.
Look to Him – the Joy of the world – the truest meaning of Christmas – and He will give you the peace you so desperately long for.